Asteral launches new procurement solution for medical equipment

Supplier unveils EaaS flexible purchasing and management solution in bid to help cash-strapped NHS trusts

Following the publication of two critical reports claiming NHS procurement processes waste millions of pounds every year, a leading provider has launched a unique new service for UK health trusts.

Asteral unveiled its Equipment-as-a-Service (EaaS) offering at the NHS Confederation Annual Conference and Exhibition held in Manchester last week.

Increasing efficiency requires a radical rethink of how medical equipment is currently chosen, funded, managed and maintained; especially as existing NHS procurement and maintenance practices remain disparate and complex

Taking traditional managed equipment service (MES) contracts one stage further, the EaaS service has been developed to cater specifically for the needs of NHS hospitals by lowering the cost and complexity of equipment procurement and management as well as helping trusts meet QIPP targets. This enables hospitals to better ensure better value for money throughout the entire equipment lifecycle – from procurement and installation, to management and maintenance, through to decommissioning.

Essentially, EaaS is a flexible MES agreement offering hospitals end-to-end support for all equipment requirements, together with the flexibility to adopt a single element – such as planning, procurement, maintenance or management services – for a single piece of equipment or across an entire portfolio. A range of options are built into the service – from consolidating Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) support contracts to replacing equipment at the end of its lifecycle and incorporating the purchase and management of equipment consumables. Asteral also offers hospitals funding in order for them to achieve affordable solutions across the whole lifecycle of medical equipment.

Based on early calculations, it is predicted that trusts will be able to save between 10-15% compared to traditional purchasing channels.

We will make sure that in these tough financial times trusts have the access to the equipment they need and don’t have to worry about it; enabling them to focus on patients

Speaking to BBH this week, Asteral’s chief executive, Christopher Langley, said: “Increasing efficiency requires a radical rethink of how medical equipment is currently chosen, funded, managed and maintained; especially as existing NHS procurement and maintenance practices remain disparate and complex.

“We have designed this service based upon our experience of working with the NHS over the past 11 years. It is about providing hospitals and health centres with the equipment they need, with improved efficiency and outcomes.

“We will make sure that in these tough financial times trusts have the access to the equipment they need and don’t have to worry about it; enabling them to focus on patients.”

The launch of the EaaS programme follows the publication earlier this year of two highly-critical reports from the National Audit Office (NAO) and the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) claiming that opportunities for efficiencies were being missed because of poor purchasing processes currently used by NHS trusts.

In response to the problem the Government last month revealed a £300m moneypot to help NHS trusts bulk buy large equipment such as MRI scanners and cancer treatment systems. Sir Ian Carruthers, chief executive of the South of England strategic health authority, will also lead a consultation into exactly what is needed to help drive improvements.

But the Government and NHS trusts are also appealing to the supplier community to do its bit to help ensure access to the best equipment at the lowest cost.

Langley said: “We are familiar with the reports earlier this year and have had discussions with the Department of Health from a supply chain perspective. This offering is our way of helping NHS trusts to save money.”

Explaining how the EaaS approach works, he added: “It is an MES contract, but it differs because of the range of products and services that make it up. It is MES taken into the future.

In today’s climate it is both about saving money and also about providing a service. EaaS enables us to offer a flexible range of services that work together or alone, delivering bespoke solutions to meet the specific needs, large and small, of hospitals today

“One trust could come to us for help purchasing radiology equipment and later on they might want to upgrade it, so we will add that on. Some hospitals may want us to manage all medical equipment from the large to the small, or they may just want help purchasing a single item. They might also want to reduce their maintenance costs, or they may not have access to capital funding to upgrade equipment.

“Fixed MES contracts will still be a good offering for some trusts, but it makes sense to have more of a menu of options. EaaS can be tailored to suit a trust’s needs and then varied down the line as those needs change.

“For trusts that currently have a mix of suppliers and equipment, it will be very useful. As a vendor-neutral supplier we will be able to ensure they get the very best equipment available on the market at the best price. They will have a single contract and one number to ring if anything goes wrong.

“In today’s climate it is both about saving money and also about providing a service. EaaS enables us to offer a flexible range of services that work together or alone, delivering bespoke solutions to meet the specific needs, large and small, of hospitals today.”

Also critical to improving NHS purchasing, according to Langley, is the consideration of whole life cost, not just the off-the-shelf fees.

He said: “Equipment needs to do what the hospital or health centre wants it to do, so we are saying they need to consider the cost throughout its lifecycle. That is key to this offering, that we can provide more than just procurement, but a service that ensures they get the best equipment, at the best cost and that it continues to work for them for as long as they need it to.”

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